A Norwegian food writer shares some top tips on grocery shopping in Norway on a budget.
You know the scene – it’s you, your debit card and two bags of groceries that you just paid 600NOK to drag out of the corner market. Then you get home and nearly break into tears because you’ve just realized that you forgot to pick up the pate and sliced pickles!
We’ve all been there, and now, sadly again, you’re there too– you’ve blown your food budget in one trip to the grocery store and you need to buy just a few more items.
So, here are some of my budget friendly tips for eating well on a limited budget in Norway:
1. Make a list – and stick to it. Decide what you are going to buy at the grocery store, make a list – and stick to it. It’s easy to blow your food budget by giving in to impulse purchases so make your list and stick to it.
2. Meal planning is the key to success. Planning out your meals for the week – or even just your dinners – takes all the guess work out of your evening meal and makes it better to plan ahead. If you base your meals on the foods that are in season and in the weekly circular ads, and you’ll be able to save money by eating what’s freshest.
3. Know what you have in stock. Do you really need (yet) another block of cheese? If you know what is in your fridge before you go to the store, you know what you need to buy. Make sure to take inventory of what you have on hand before you head to the market.
4. Go meatless. One or two days a week, go vegan or vegetarian. This is a lot less painless then it sounds and the money you save on meat, dairy and other animal based products will quickly add up. Choose dishes that are full of both fiber and plant based protein such as vegetarian chili. Also, try dishes with loads of flavor, to keep you full and satisfied.
5. Get a deep freezer. My deep freezer is one of my best friends when it comes to keeping my monthly food budget in check. Save one or two portions of any dish you make in the freezer and you’ll have homemade convenience meals on hand instead of buying expensive convenience meals at the store for when you can’t be bothered to cook.
6. Compare prices. Finding good deals on food items you buy often might come in unexpected places, so keep your eyes open. I buy items such as unrefined sea salt, tea, bouillon, nuts, seeds plus a few other items in health food and organic food stores.
Why? These are items commonly bought in these stores and as such, don’t tend to cost as much per kilo as in other places. Also, as the store’s clientele buys them frequently, the store’s stock rotates often. No one ever believes me when I say I save money in the organic food stores, but I do.
7. Go where the deals are. International food stores in Norway are a great place to find super deals and save big. Dried beans, spices, produce and olives in international food stores are normally 50-90% off compared to prices in more traditional Norwegian supermarkets. These stores are also a good place to find lamb and poultry.
8. Use what you buy. If you buy something, eat it. Wasted food means wasted money.
9. Find substitutions. Most grocery stores have a “soon to be expired” section where they sell food items that are reaching their expiry date or looking a little less than fresh. Shop in this section of the store for great deals on more expensive cuts of meat which weren’t purchased at full price, or cheeses which were left behind for the same reason.
10. Eat your greens. Most major cities in Norway have shops that only sell fruit and vegetables, so head here for discounts on your greens.
Supermarket loyalty programs
UPDATE! Since Whitney wrote this excellent article, loyalty schemes are becoming more popular in Norwegian supermarkets. The best known is Rema 1000's Æ, which gives 10% discount on all fresh fruit and vegetables, along with your most bought items.
If you shop more frequently at Kiwi, Meny, Spar or Joker, check out the Trumf program. This is similar to the UK's Nectar program in that it allows you to collect and redeem points at multiple outlets, and even convert them to air miles.
Of course, such schemes are designed to get you to spend more, not less, but clever use of them can still see you benefit.